LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - For English cricket fans who witnessed Bob Willis’s ferocious spell of fast bowling to win the third Ashes test at Headingley in 1981 it was an unforgettable and iconic sporting afternoon.
Willis’s former team mate Geoffrey Boycott had a close-up view that day as the six foot six inch paceman with the luxuriant curls ripped the Australian batting order to shreds.
Boycott joined the chorus of tributes to Willis after news of the 70-year-old’s death on Wednesday, recalling the match-winning spell of eight for 43 which secured Willis’s place in the nation’s sporting folklore.
Here are a selection of tributes to England’s fourth-highest test wicket taker and the man nicknamed The Goose:
“He was not seeing anything else other than the batsman and the stumps. He had blinkered vision, a bit like a racehorse galloping towards the finish line.
“None of us needed to speak to him. There was no point anyway as his focus, emotion and passion all came together in that moment and he blew the Aussies away.” — Geoffrey Boycott
“As a player he had a big heart, he’d run in, nearly 6ft 6ins, and hit the pitch hard. At his peak was one of the best three bowlers in the world.”
“He was hugely admired all around the world. Everybody knew who he was.” — former England bowler Darren Gough.
“Just saw the news on Bob Willis and very sad indeed. Off air I just loved listening to his great stories on how they played the game back in the day.” — former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald
“He was a man that cared passionately about everything to do with England cricket. He was one of England’s greatest ever fast bowlers. Who would forget him charging down the hill in the ‘81 Botham’s Ashes bowling the Aussies out in that fantastic series.” — former England assistant coach and current Warwickshire head coach Paul Farbrace.
“He was unique back then. Just look at some of his celebrations and that long wiggly run up, with the unusual arm gathering behind him and the flowing locks. I can still see him now running off at Headingley looking in a complete daze.
“A great bowler but not a great batsman. He even forgot to take his bat out with him once and that was classic Bob.” — Former England captain Nasser Hussain.
“Bob Willis gave me, and so many others, one of the great days of my childhood. Loved copying that run-up. Met him many times later but he was always the 1981 hero in my eyes. Hope he knew how much pleasure he gave.” — The Times sports journalist Matt Dickinson.
“Such a sad time for cricket fans all around the world. Rest In Peace Bob. You shall be remembered forever for what you have done on the pitch.” — former West Indies batting great Viv Richards (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)